Facial Oils or Serums? How to Choose for Your Skin

Confused about skincare formulations? We decode facial oils, serums and more

Facial Oils or Serums? How to Choose for Your Skin

Source: Best Health magazine, January/February 2016


Facial oils

Beauty oils are an emerging trend in Canada ‘ the proliferation of products in stores is a testament to that fact. There are oils for your face, hair and body, further categorized as cleansing, hydrating or cosmetically enhancing. While most include similar ingredients, formulations can vary. ‘Oils are ageless,’ says Shawna Campigotto, marketing manager for personal care at Hain Celestial Canada. ‘You have everything from baby oils to anti-aging oils.’

Why choose oils? For starters, they have many benefits that their creamy sisters don’t, says Campigotto. ‘Oils are much more potent, tend to have more natural formulations and offer longer moisturizing effects.’

Facial oils can be used on all skin types, although many are geared toward aging skin due to the high content of antioxidants and hydrating benefits. Body oils and dry body oils (the difference is in the formulation: dry formulations absorb faster) are suitable for everyone and have immediate results. Body oils that contain ingredients like vitamin E and aloe can also help minimize scarring and stretch marks.

Cleansing oils can benefit any skin type. Since oil cuts through oil, it’s the preferred first step for many facialists. ‘When you have excessively oily, breakout-prone skin, I recommend an oil cleanser as a pre-cleanse,’ says Victoria Radford, a Toronto aesthetician.

Women with both oily and aging skin should look for products that contain coconut oil. Not only is it brightening and able to penetrate the deepest layers of skin but it’s also antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. Jojoba oil is best for dry skin (its composition is closest to sebum), while those with sensitive skin should look to olive-oil-based products because they are thicker and result in better skin protection.

For body: Live Clean Sheer Light Skin Perfecting Dry Body Oil, $10
For face: Clinique Smart Treatment Oil, $53
For cleansing:
Caudalie Make-Up Removing Cleansing Oil, $28

Gel formulations

Gels have been gaining popularity in North America. ‘Women love gel formulations because they’re light, fresh and adaptable to any skin type,’ says Muriel Pujos, director of scientific communication for Philosophy. ‘Gels can be used for any type of skincare benefit, from anti-wrinkle and firming to smoothing and radiance-boosting.’

Most gels are formulated without the heavier oils and creams found in regular moisturizers. Face preparations are the most popular in this category, peaking among women with oily and combination skin during the summer months (the lightweight texture absorbs fast and offers hydration without leaving a greasy residue).

Interested in experimenting? Match your skin type to these specific ingredients for best results. If you have oily skin, look for products that contain beta hydroxy acid (salicylic acid), as it serves as a leave-on exfoliator and an antibacterial agent. If dry skin is your issue, gels with humectants, such as hyaluronic acid, are good because this particular acid has a great capacity to retain moisture. If you’re combatting signs of aging, look to products with vitamins A and C, as well as those that contain soy extract and beta carotene, for a youthful boost.

For oily skin: Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Oil-Free Gel Cream, $57
For mature skin: Philosophy Renewed Hope In A Jar Gel Cream, $59
For dry skin: Fresh Rose Hydrating Gel Cream, $49

Skin serums

With a high percentage of active ingredients, serums are powerhouses in your skincare routine. Since serums leave out thickening or lubricating ingredients, they are lightweight and have the consistency of a light gel formula, which allows them to absorb quickly. Over the past decade, serums in Canada have expanded to treat an array of issues, including aging, acne, pigmentation and hydration.

‘Hydrating serums bring a flash of hydration for those suffering from dehydrated or sensitized skin,’ says David Durand, a pharmacist and CEO of Bioderma. Hyaluronic acid is the key ingredient to look for. When it comes to serums that target acne, as well as pigmentation issues, it’s best to look for those that contain alpha-hydroxy acid. It works as an exfoliating agent, removing the superficial layer of skin to refine its texture.

Anti-aging serums are the most expansive category on the market and treat a variety of anti-aging concerns, such as fine lines and wrinkles, rough texture and sun damage. Look for a high concentration of antioxidants like resveratrol.

According to Radford, it’s best to apply serum before other products to allow it to penetrate the deeper layers of skin. After a minute or two, apply cream or gel moisturizer to protect the outer layer.

For oily skin: Skinceuticals Blemish + Age Defense, $86
For mature skin: Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Serum, $28
For dry skin: Bioderma Hydrabio Serum, $43

Body butters

Butters are whipped versions of seed and nut oils used on the body rather than the face. They’re beneficial for anyone who prefers a heavier texture and rich moisturizing factor.

‘You’re going to find that most butters will smooth and nourish the skin,’ says Steven Turpin, creative design team educator for Moroccanoil. ‘They’re great for very dry areas, such as elbows and knees, and beneficial for sun-damaged skin as well because they help keep moisture in.’ Use body butters just as you would body oils: all over the body to promote hydration and nourished, glowing skin.

Look for argan, coconut, shea and mango oils in your butter. In addition to rehydrating your skin, many of these oils contain vitamins A, E and F to provide additional benefits, such as minimizing dark spots, smoothing roughness and fighting redness. Use them all over your body, focusing on smoothing extra product onto your driest areas.

Fast-absorbing: Moroccanoil Body Butter Original Fragrance, $56
Everyday: Soap & Glory The Righteous Butter, $18
Extra protection: Decleor The Aromessence Frankincense Nourishing Body Balm $69

Some serums contain fillers such as petroleum and silicone, which only benefit the product’s texture, not skin. Read labels to ensure that products contain a high concentration of active ingredients.